Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Film exchange

There is an interesting multiple exposure project that I've now heard about a couple of times. It goes something like this: a photographer shoots a roll of film, all under exposed by one stop. Subject matter can be anything the photographer likes. They then rewind that roll and pass it to a fellow photographer, who again shoots the entire roll, using random subjects underexposed by 1 stop. The end result is a series of 2 image multiple exposures, combining potentially disconnected subjects. There was an exhibition in the Guggenheim in New York where the two photographers had deliberately focused on cliche subjects. One had shot exclusively flowers in a standard snapshot fashion and the second had shot postcard sunsets. The heart of this lies in the serendipity and randomness of the images that get combined. I wonder if this could be done digitally, or would the opportunity to creatively direct the combinations sneak in to the process ? I can see shooting 30 images, and passing them on to a friend - but would I not want to edit those images, shoot 60 and pick the 'best' ones ? Then again, when it came to combine the frames, rather than using the random initial sequence, might we not want to pick and choose, reorder and combine the best, or most meaningful, or most ironic or best colour combinations of images? Now ask yourself, would it be better or worse to do this? On one side, you would probably miss out on the happy accidents, the magic of it all falling in to place mostly by accident. On the other side, you'd loose the frustration of near misses, or instances where this subject would be fantastic on this other frame. The pain and frustration of the what ifs would be gone but so would the magic of the real hits. Sure, we could just do both, after all, it's digital you can just rip it up and retry - but where does the real magic and fun lie ? Anyone want to try it out ?


ursula said...

Hi Gordon,

I am familiar with HTML; if you could point me to the guide (to get comments to show on the same page posts) I'd appreciate it.


ursula said...

Working in digital is really quite different than working in film, in many different ways.

I remember a happy accident quite a few years ago, when I shot a roll of film of my daughter's birthday (blowing out the candles, smiles, opening gifts), then, by mistake, reshot the same roll for fireworks. The results were beautiful, and totally unintended. I later tried duplicating the effect on purpose, and the results were never as good.

It is very hard not to "cheat" in digital. It is hard not to try to "make things happen" rather than "let them happen". It is hard in digital not to try to make things happen after the fact rather than plan ahead. Is it "cheating"?

Even for the experiment that you mention, the Guggenheim experiment, there was planning involved, it wasn't your "normal" accidental double-exposure. Most accidental double-exposures do not turn out all that great.


I would very much be game for something like this. A roll of digital, 24 - 36 photos possibly with a general topic or idea in mind, shared for double-exposures to be aligned in the order they were shot with another set, also done the same way, I would love to see what comes out of that.

Gordon said...

You are right, particularly about the Guggenheim case. They were I think trying to make a somewhat snide comment about the typical photographer's trite images too, in that they took them as a 'snapshooter's' perspective.

Also, there was some level of selection going on - they showed maybe 5 huge prints, not all 30+ images, so some filtering occured. But I like the idea of some restriction being placed on the creative process. I find that the
most interesting pictures usually come out of some set of limitations, rather than a totally blank page.

You are right some forward planning and consideration would certainly produce a more cohesive set of happy accidents than just random shooting, so a theme for each shooter would make sense. I can see that two complimentary themes (flowers and sunsets), vs two jarring themes (children and guns) would tend to lead to very different sets of images.

Also I think it is probably important not to see the half finished 'first' set, in either case.

ursula said...

Sounds good, a sort of planned exchange where the results are not controlled but random. I like it. I'd like to do this.

Any more takers?

With 2 "rolls of digital" we'd have 1 outcome;

With 3 "rolls of digital" we could have 3 outcomes;

With 4 we could have 6;
With 5 we could have 10;
With 6 we could have 15;
and so on.

Imagine the possibilities!

Gordon said...

This sounds great. If we can get the themes in place by the weekend, I
can certainly shoot this.

How about 20 distinct images the first time around ?

Maybe a natural/ artifical theme split ? I'm open to plenty
of other ideas.

Does the layering order of the pair matter ? Does that give
another set of outcomes ?

ursula said...

I was thinking if there were 3 participants, 3 sets of 20 images, and you combine 2 for double-exposures, so for 3 you would have 1 and 2, 2 and 3, & 3 and 1, or 3 sets of double-exposures.

It hadn't occurred to me that with 3 participants you could also have triple-exposures.

Natural/artificial sounds like a good start. 20 distinct images, this weekend, choose your weapon :)

Gordon said...

Okay, I'm going to shoot 10 natural/ 10 manmade subjects. All pretty close up.

Should have them done in about 30 minutes ;)

ursula said...

Allright, I will shoot 10 manmade/10 natural, all from a little ways off, but tomorrow afternoon.

It's going to take me more than 30 minutes :)